• Interview With Developer Dan French

    Interview With Developer Dan French

    Conducted By Dominic Smith

    Interview: Dan French

    Dan, could I begin by asking you about how your interest in flight simulation began?

    My first flight sim experience was during high school while I was visiting American Airlines' pilot training academy in Ft. Worth, Texas. It was a career day type trip. That sim of 1967 would mimic all kinds of situations. They had a giant building that contained a model of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area which, along with a moving camera, provided TV to the windshields of the Boeing 727. Leave the area, and you were in clouds and IFR. Though I never became a pilot, I was captivated by the simulator idea.

    Around 1982, I received a floppy disc copy of the first or second edition of Flight Simulator. You know the one, it had a green screen, black lines for runways, and building outlines of Chicago. Even with the slow frame rate provided by my IBM PC, it couldn't curb my enthusiasm (I was hooked).

    Rearing kids and building a career put me out of touch for a while, but an illness stopped me from real life duties for about 6 weeks. Not being much of a TV or movie guy, I pulled out an old copy of Flight Sim, but it was unable to run on my latest computer due to compatibility issues.

    However, I soon found out that new versions were available, namely FS2004 (what a jewel of a sim). So, I began flying again and soon had questions about my technique, etc. I was so surprised when I began to search the internet and found FlightSim.Com. A whole community existed of apparently thousands of us worldwide that I knew nothing about. The biggest surprise was the vast array of model aircraft and sceneries available, all for free!

    My first downloads were a Continental Airlines Viscount and my old hometown airport, KMAF Midland/Odessa, Texas. The Viscount was the first plane on which I ever flew on, KMAF to KAMA Amarillo, with my Dad.

    Interview: Dan French

    Soon I was flying passengers all over Texas, but as everyone knows, it didn't take long for me to become disgruntled with the default scenery. To be fair, Microsoft actually did a wonderful job on the default sceneries in FS2004 and FSX, but as simmers, we can easily become snobs. Failing to find a good rendition of KMAF or the old Houston International, I wondered if I could build my own. I had difficulty with the model making program I bought, and textures for me were still using mostly the default ones. When I discovered Sketchup, model building became very simple and even elegant. I tried Gmax but stuck with Sketchup due to simplicity. I got into photography at around that time too and eventually found Photoshop. Now I could make my own textures!

    Dan, what was the first scenery you ever created for others to enjoy?

    I built KHOU Houston International as I remembered it during 1965 from online photos and was very pleased with the result (almost 10 years ago now). In a brave move, I decided to risk exposing my airport to the public and uploaded it to FlightSim.Com, and off we went!

    Interview: Dan French

    What have been your most popular projects?

    My most frequently downloaded projects are libraries of building and hangar models. But I was surprised to find my most popular scenery has actually been my Iceland Airports for FSX with over 5000 downloads. I decided to build this scenery when I got hooked on reading Icelandic Noir mysteries. This was a fun project with several airports requiring custom terminals to be made. As well as the terminals, I also made lighthouses which were modelled from original photos and even included special lighting effects. This meant I could use them for night VFR navigation. I've been toying with an update to include a new island and an exploding volcano. However, many flight simmers are moving away from FSX in favor of MSFS 2020, so we will see.

    Interview: Dan French - KCVG

    Interview: Dan French - KCVG

    Since I lived in northern Kentucky near the airport, I created KCVG for FSX and it too has been very popular. Due to 9-11 and then COVID, the airport has unfortunately seen better days, and so I have kept it in its grand old style of yesterday. I may update it soon with the new Amazon Prime ramp, but I'm going to keep the terminals and buildings as they were back in their heyday.

    Tags: dan french

    1. W33's Avatar
      W33 -
      Really enjoy your work Dan, keep up the great work!

    1. sfgarland's Avatar
      sfgarland -
      Great Article/interview! . . . and what a legend! Mr. French's work is top notch, indeed, legendary. Thank you, sir, for the years of enjoyment.

    1. jacklyon2's Avatar
      jacklyon2 -
      Great scenery you do! thanks!
    1. bjl345's Avatar
      bjl345 -
      Pease keep going. For obvious reasons (msfs being the most important) FSX will stay alive for a long time.
    1. bossmedic's Avatar
      bossmedic -
      I am a huge fan of Dan and his work. Awesome interview.
    1. avp's Avatar
      avp -
      Great interview Dan. Learned some interesting things about your interest in our hobby. I am very thankful that you chose to work with me on my projects as they would not have been worth releasing without your custom Hangars and buildings. Thanks much for your contributions to this hobby.
    1. duken99's Avatar
      duken99 -
      Great work - keep it up - Thanks for your fine work
    1. dlfrenchmd's Avatar
      dlfrenchmd -
      Thanks so much everybody!!
    1. kenfrench's Avatar
      kenfrench -
      Hi Dan, Believe it or not my name is Ken French and in the past I have also developed scenery (and even aircraft!).
      It started many years ago after my hobby of building and flying radio controlled aircraft came to a halt due to failing eyesight. (If you cannot see them they became a dangerous weapon). I have always been involved in computers
      and messed around with Flight sim in its early days so that was my next step. Looking back I think it was FS2000 and then FS2004 that started it off and I had noticed that Elvington just south of York in the UK was missing from the scenery for that area. It is also the home of the Yorkshire Air Museum which we have visited on may occasion so I decided to have a go and producing my own rendered of that airfield. Not only was I successful but I have added to it ever since to make it one of the best equipped(flt sim) airports in the UK. Since then many more usually at the request of others just to keep me busy. However, at the aged ot 87 my eyes again have let me down and I can no longer concentrate on the screen to continue. I do however have a group of friends to fly with on Mondays and Thursdays every week which keeps the brain active!
    1. dlfrenchmd's Avatar
      dlfrenchmd -
      Keep at it, brother Ken!
    1. Roger Wensley's Avatar
      Roger Wensley -
      It was like reading my life story, describing the fascination with making scenery and the satisfaction it brings, except that I stuck with FS2004.
    1. senna94f1's Avatar
      senna94f1 -
      We all like to think we are different but in truthfulness we are very similar,
      Thanks Dan,
      I've enjoyed your work, and long may sims keep going.
      I often wonder what sims will be like in 100 years time,
      Have a great Christmas everyone,
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